The Art of Selling Creative Services


Selling new ideas can be tough. If you are a creative type, that’s even tougher. Usually people who need your services realize they need help but often don’t trust the young, creative professional because, by and large, creative people scare them. From the way you dress, to the language you use, all the way to your non-corporate haircut, you can make your potential client nervous. The sooner you realize this dynamic, the sooner you can overcome it. It happens to me quite often. I’m creative, opinionated, and Brazilian. I make a lot of people nervous. Here’s a simple strategy I use when dealing with those non-creative professionals.

How to sell your creative ideas to non creative people

Understand where their pain is. What do they “think” they need from me? Sometimes what they need and their perception of the need are not the same. Regardless, you must always start from their perspective, no matter your assessment of the situation.

Speak their language. I met with a CPA firm not long ago. I knew better than to talk about “the customers’ stories intersecting the company’s storyline thus creating a rich new narrative.” That kind of talk would have me escorted off the premises.

Alleviate their pain with your solution. After you understood what their felt needs are and figured out how they want to get the information, then it’s time to connect the dots for them. But you can only do that by starting at their pain point and using the language they are accustomed to hearing. Most people lose the deal at this point. Contextualization is not just a missional term, it’s a business one as well. The right solution presented in a way that’s foreign to your audience will get voted down every time.

What other help would you offer to creatives working with non-creatives?

  • Andrew Acker

    Finding the pain is a must in any consulting sales situation. You have to scratch their itch. The only thing worse then not getting a client though, is getting a bad one. It’s a hard concept to grasp, which is why I would add a healthy dose of brutal honesty into the sales mix, in terms of what the process looks like and how the end goal will really end up. Agreeing to terms without any scope or truly unified desires, too often results in a relationship where neither side is happy…

    • Qualifying your clients is such an important part of a successful business. The mistake I made early on the development of my company was to take any job that came along because I needed the revenue. That can cost you more than you know.

  • Jana Renfrow

    Understand how to speak “their” language is so important. I know that industry or ministry buzz words are important to a lot of people. I work with some Southern Baptist churches and I let them know early in our conversation about my salvation experience. It’s critical for them to know that I am a “legitimate” Christian.

    • I understand that, Jana, coming from a Baptist background myself.

  • Great thoughts Maurilio! I would add that there must be some shared ownership in the solution of the problem. An outside firm creating a solution and forcing it on the client doesn’t work. I’ve experienced this both on the client-side and the agency side. There’s got to be some collaboration and co-creating, or the agency’s idea just won’t stick in the long-run.nnCreative agencies don’t have it easy; it’s a tightrope. You must challenge the fear of change without railroading change. There’s a middle ground there that the excellent agencies know how to navigate.nnGreat post!

    • Good insight, Brett. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  • Great post, Maurilio! No one wants to be escorted off the premises!

  • Gary

    One thing I have had to learn to navigate in my language with clients is this … They want you to have the answers for them, but don’t want you come across like you have all the answers. You can’t make it look easy, or they sometimes feel like you really haven’t given a lot of thought to their situation.

  • Brett W. Gould

    How true this is. I’ve realized it’s wrapped up in the “HOW”. As a creative the “HOW” excites me. At the same time I realize it can feel like the Bermuda Triangle for my potential client. We agree the “WHAT” is broken. It’s how we communicate the “HOW” that will determine if it stays that way.

    Great post Maurilio. Thanks for the reminder!

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